Following a procedure at Johns Hopkins Hospital, a 26-year-old Iraq veteran has become the first US service member to get a double arm transplant. Just seven people in the US have ever successfully gone through the procedure, experts tell the Washington Post; only 60 worldwide have received arm transplants, says the lead doctor. Brendan Marrocco was the first soldier to survive losing all four limbs in Iraq or Afghanistan. An IED explosion on Easter 2009 took both his legs above the knee and both his arms, one above the elbow and the other below.
Marrocco's father says he's "doing well" after the Dec. 18 surgery, following which he also received a bone marrow transplant from the deceased arm donor's spine. That transplant means fewer dangerous drugs are needed to prevent rejection of the new limbs. While recipients never regain their full functionality, they can relearn tasks as complex as using chopsticks and tying shoes, the doctor says. Younger patients are most likely to abandon prosthetic limb replacements, boosting the call for transplants, says the doctor. "Once they’re transplanted, they regard the arm as theirs." Click through for details of the surgery. (Read more Brendan Marrocco stories.)